A few weeks ago, we decided to check off Timpanogos from Casey’s “To Hike” list. I hiked it twice before from the Aspen Grove trailhead- with one successful summit. This time, we would start from the Timpooneke Trail. The trails converge shortly before the summit, once you hit the ridge, so I already was prepared for the final push. I was excited to check out this aspect.
Casey and I met shortly before 6am to give ourselves plenty of time. The Timpooneke route is 14.5 miles roundtrip and about 4,500 feet of elevation gain. My knees hated me at the end of my past two strolls on Timp and I started with similar expectations from this jaunt.
We winded up our way American Fork Canyon and started up while the trail was still hidden in the shade. The cool temperature made for an enjoyable beginning to the day. The trail switches back and forth several times, crossing a stream that was empty due to the lack of rainfall this summer. The grade was fairly gentle and we both felt confident that it meant the final miles of the hike down would be smooth. We rounded the final switchback and were just below the ridge when we met our friends, the mountain goats!
We bonded with fellow hikers as we all took photos and commented on how crazy/awesome they are. Wouldn’t it be sweet if humans possessed that ability? After a few minutes of chatting with other trail goers, we continued across the alpine field and toward the ridge. The weather was perfect so far – something I had never experienced on Timp before. We got to the ridge and stopped to enjoy the incredible views. Look West and see the massive Utah Lake; face East and enjoy the beautiful Heber Valley. The landscape around us made our snacks even tastier.
After a few short, steep switchbacks, the final section is relatively easy. The summit was in our sights! Just a little… bit….. JUST KIDDING. Well, we were really close, and it was going to be a little bit longer. Then, out of nowhere, a troop of Marines disembarked from the summit. Literally, a troop of them. 70 Marines. We could see that there were a lot of people up at the summit, but when they started down the trail in single file formation, we could barely believe our eyes. We thanked them for their service as we stopped for all of them to get past us. It felt like an eternity; in reality it was something between 5-10 minutes. Finally, it was our turn: there were no obstacles in our way. Before we knew it, we were standing atop the second highest peak in the Wasatch, soaking it all in. We snapped a few photos and enjoyed the moment before admitting the reality that we were really only halfway done.
We left the summit and I made mental note of the great time we were making – we were dominating this hike. We made it down below the ridge and started across the alpine field, enjoying the few wildflowers that weren’t dead from the lack of rain. Casey started to slow a little bit, but didn’t say anything. After a few minutes, I asked how she was feeling just to get an idea of what might be going on. She said her hiking boots were causing some pain, so we kept the slower pace. We were still in good shape because of how quickly we hit the summit.
As the miles passed, we slowed more and more. Casey’s feet were in so much pain that she could barely walk. We both tried to remember how far we were from the trailhead, guessing which switchback we were rounding, hoping we were making progress. One step at a time, the minutes disappeared into the hours. A backpacker was coming up the trail and we asked how long he had been hiking – when he replied for over an hour, I didn’t want to believe him. I felt terrible for Casey. I couldn’t even imagine the pain she was in.
The hike down took 5.5 hours, and we could not have been happier to be back at the car. Casey vowed to throw away her hiking boots immediately. She hadn’t worn them in a while and realized there was a reason why. Thankfully, we had crushed the hike up and we had started early enough in the day so we had more than enough sunlight to get down safely. Timp always kicks your ass the first time you hike it, so we should have guessed we’d have something thrown our way. We were happy with the day though. We did it! Timpanogos – Check!